On March 11, 2011 just after lunch time, everyone in Tokyo stopped what they were doing. At least, just for a few moments until each person made a choice about where to run and hide. While newsreaders on the TV wore hard helmets to deliver the news, people in the north of the country ran for their lives. A massive tsunami had hit the coast and was wreaking pure terror. It wiped out communities and crashed into Fukushima power plant, leaving scars that will never heal.
But the world works in curious ways and according to The Japan Times, Japan’s four biggest general contractors — Obayashi, Kajima Corp., Taisei Corp. and Shimizu Corp. – have experienced record profits in recent years as a result of the demand for construction in those disaster areas. Fortunately, Japan’s most recent construction boom comes as a result of something positive – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Obayashi, then, is responsible for the construction of the “number one tower in the world” – the Tokyo SKYTREE. At 634m, it is one of the world’s tallest. This sparkly construction from 2012 firmly placed the famous orange and white ‘Tokyo Tower’ in the background; though in all honesty, neither of them ever seemed particularly exciting in the first place.
Much more interesting is Obayashi’s plans to build the world’s first space elevator. Sticking a great big tower in the middle of a city just doesn’t do it for the big construction firms anymore and so Obayashi is reaching for the stars. It plans to provide an elevator ride into space by 2050. After 36,000 km you can reach the top and look out from the Geostationary Earth Orbit Station.
Let’s just hope that if Obayashi builds this elevator, Richard Branson’s space shuttle doesn’t go whizzing past the orbit station on its opening day; a group of tourists waving from the shuttle window.
The elevator is certainly an exciting prospect. But with the constant race for “the tallest thing in a skyline”, we are curious to see how Obayashi plans to surpass itself and its competitors, once it has built the elevator. What will they create?
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